When Do Collection Agencies Report to Credit Bureaus?

December 14, 2023 | 3 min read

Credit Saint

Written By:

Credit Saint

Ashley Davison

Reviewed By:

Ashley Davison

Credit bureaus play a pivotal role in determining an individual’s financial standing and creditworthiness. They collect and maintain credit information, including payment histories, outstanding debts, and other financial activities.

One critical aspect of credit reporting involves the actions of collection agencies who are hired by creditors to recover outstanding debts. These agencies specialize in locating debtors, negotiating repayment plans, and, in some cases, pursuing legal actions to recover the owed funds.

When Does a Debt Go to Collections?

Debts typically go to collections after a period of non-payment. The exact timeline can vary depending on the creditor, but it usually happens when an account is significantly overdue. Common examples include unpaid medical bills, credit card debt, or outstanding loans.

Do Collection Agencies Report Immediately?

Collection agencies do not report debts to credit bureaus immediately after taking over an account. Instead, there is a specific process they follow, and reporting is one of the later steps.

What is the Reporting Process?

The reporting process usually involves several stages:

  1. Debt Validation: First, collection agencies must validate the debt. This means they need to confirm that the debtor indeed owes the money and that all legal requirements have been met.
  2. Initial Contact: The agency will attempt to contact the debtor to negotiate a repayment plan or settlement. This may involve phone calls, letters, or emails.
  3. Credit Reporting: If efforts to collect the debt are unsuccessful, the collection agency may report the debt to one or more of the major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. This typically happens within 30-45 days after their initial contact with the debtor.
  4. Continued Collection Efforts: Even after reporting to credit bureaus, collection agencies may continue their efforts to collect the debt.

Can a Debt Be Reported to All Three Credit Bureaus?

Yes, it is possible for a debt to be reported to all three major credit bureaus. However, not all collection agencies report to all three. Some may report to only one or two of them. Therefore, it’s crucial to monitor your credit reports from all three bureaus if you suspect that a debt has gone to collections.

How Does This Affect My Credit Score?

Once a debt is reported to a credit bureau, it can have a negative impact on your credit score. The exact impact depends on various factors, including the amount of the debt, the age of the debt, and your overall credit history. Generally, a collection account can significantly lower your credit score, making it more challenging to obtain new credit or loans.

How Long Does a Collection Stay on My Credit Report?

A collection account can stay on your credit report for up to 7 years from the date of the first delinquency that led to the debt being sent to collections. This can have long-lasting effects on your creditworthiness.

Can I Remove a Collection Account from My Credit Report?

It is possible to remove a collection account from your credit report, but it can be challenging. You can:

  1. Pay the Debt: Paying off the debt does not erase it from your credit report, but it can change its status to “paid.” Some creditors may agree to remove the account entirely if you negotiate a “pay for delete” arrangement.
  2. Dispute Inaccurate Information: If there are errors in the reporting or if the debt is not yours, you can dispute it with the credit bureaus.
  3. Wait for the Statute of Limitations: After a certain period, the debt may become uncollectible, and the collection agency may stop reporting it.

Bottom Line

Understanding when collection agencies report to credit bureaus is crucial for managing your financial health. It’s essential to be proactive in dealing with debts to prevent them from negatively affecting your credit score. Timely communication with creditors and collection agencies, negotiating repayment plans, and regularly monitoring your credit reports are essential steps in safeguarding your financial future.

If you’re facing debt collection, consider seeking advice from a financial professional to explore your options and protect your creditworthiness.

Ashley Davison

Reviewed By:

Ashley Davison


Ashley is currently the Chief Compliance Officer for Credit Saint, previously the Chief Operating Officer. Ashley got into the Financial world by working as a Logistics Coordinator at Ernst & Young. Coming from a previous career in education, she is eager to teach the world everything she knows and learn everything that she doesn’t! Ashley is a FICO® certified professional, a Board Certified Credit Consultant, a Certified Credit Score Consultant with the Credit Consultants Association of America, UDAAP certified, and holds a Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) Compliance Certificate.